Guest workers

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Training of Italian guest workers who are to be deployed in mining ( Duisburg , 1962)

The term guest workers refers to members of a group of people who have been granted a temporary stay in the Federal Republic of Germany , the GDR , Austria or Switzerland to take up work on the basis of recruitment agreements . However, since the 1970s, the term has been used colloquially in Germany as a term for migrant workers, even after the fact that the time limit has actually been removed without any further differentiation .


Definition of terms

The term guest workers refers to members of a group of people who have been granted a temporary stay in the Federal Republic or the GDR on the basis of recruitment agreements to earn income.

The term guest worker in common parlance does not include employees who worked in the Federal Republic due to the free movement regulations of the EEC ( Belgium , France , Netherlands ) or without a special contractual basis ( Austria , Switzerland , Great Britain , USA ). In terms of numbers, these employees only played a minor role compared to those who entered the Federal Republic of Germany on the basis of recruitment agreements. The term guest workers became popular in the Federal Republic of Germany in the early 1960s for the large numbers of migrant workers recruited abroad.

Following the example of the first German-Italian recruitment agreement of 1955, recruitment agreements were made with Spain (1960), Greece (1960), Turkey (1961), Morocco (1963), South Korea (1963), Portugal (1964) and Tunisia (1965 ) from 1960 ) and last met with Yugoslavia (1968) ( see also: Recruitment Policy of the Federal Republic of Germany # Recruitment Agreement ).

The economic recession of 1966/1967 caused recruitment to decline. The 1973 oil crisis and the associated economic downturn ultimately led to a complete ban on recruitment that same year.

Concept history

Foreign Office , Bonn 1960: Signing of a contract on guest workers between the Federal Republic and Spain
Guest workers from Volkswagen in Wolfsburg , 1973

The term guest worker appeared in the last years of the Second World War as a name for foreign civil workers who were voluntarily active in the Nazi war economy for remuneration. At that time, however, the term foreign worker was still predominant. This term is to be distinguished from the term Nazi forced laborers ( prisoners of war and prisoners in concentration camps ), who were also used in the Nazi war economy (see also: Eastern workers ).

Despite the continuity of the employment of foreigners, the term guest worker was generally no longer associated with the time of National Socialism after 1945. According to Thomas Schiller, after the Second World War the term “guest worker ” was to be reserved for “ labor emigrants ” who came to the Federal Republic of Germany voluntarily from 1955 onwards.

Criticism of the concept of the guest worker

As early as the early 1970s, the term was viewed by some sociologists as euphemistic . On her initiative, the WDR organized a competition in 1972 to find a more suitable word for which 32,000 suggestions were received. After that, the term “foreign worker” was initially used more frequently. Serious publications later referred to “migrant workers”. However, the new terms could not establish themselves in the general public. Today, the term “guest worker” - especially in specialist literature - is often put in quotation marks.

It is pointed out that the term “ guest ” in the word guest worker makes sense, since the host country Germany provided for a temporary stay to perform work. In contrast to the recruitment of workers for mines during industrialization in the Ruhr area ( Ruhr Poland ), it is argued that there was no intention to give the people a new home, nor did the guest workers intend to permanently find a new home in Germany search. The time limit of employment in the Federal Republic was sought by both the recruiters and the recruited.

Development of guest worker immigration

Situation in the Federal Republic of Germany

After an impetus from Italy, which was taken up on the German side by Ludwig Erhard and Franz Josef Strauss and further developed with the support of the Foreign Office, Adenauer signed the recruitment agreement with Italy on December 20, 1955 in Rome . In this first recruitment agreement , it was agreed that the Nuremberg Federal Employment Agency in Italy should select and recruit workers together with the Italian labor administration. In the following years, from 1960 to 1968, the federal government concluded recruitment agreements with other countries: with Spain (1960), Greece (1960), Turkey (1961), Morocco (1963), South Korea (1963), Portugal (1964), Tunisia ( 1965) and Yugoslavia (1968).

In the 1960s, the guest workers mostly worked as unskilled or semi-skilled workers in industry . They mainly worked in areas where heavy and dirty work had to be done and where the shift system , serial production forms with low qualification requirements ( assembly line work ) and piecework wages determined everyday work. For the companies , who demand labor, the recruitment of guest workers had financial advantages because, from their perspective, German workers would only have accepted the same jobs with considerable wage concessions. Conversely, the recruitment of foreign workers also had an impact on the wage level of German providers of labor, especially in the low-wage sector .

On November 23, 1973, the Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (BMAS) ordered a recruitment ban on the current energy and economic crisis , which affected all recruiting countries except Italy. However, certain industries were exempted from the ban on recruitment on November 13, 1974 by an instruction from the Federal Employment Agency. These were the mining , fish and canning industry, peat industry and hotel and restaurant industry .

The recruitment ban applies to third-country nationals de facto to this day, although it is due to the possibility of family reunification, the granting of residence for the purpose of studying, etc. a. was partially relativized. In addition, the Green Card Offensive 2000, the Residence Act 2005 and the related legal ordinances and the Employment Ordinance 2013 created narrowly defined opportunities for skilled workers from non-EU countries to immigrate. To this day, the recruitment agreements regulate social and residence benefits for employees from the recruiting countries and their family members.

Situation in the GDR

Vietnamese guest worker in the Berlin headquarters of the automation plant construction combine (1989)

In the GDR , contract workers played a similar role. In 1989, 94,000 contract workers were resident in the GDR, two thirds were of Vietnamese origin. Other countries of origin were Cuba , Mozambique (see also Madgermanes ), Poland and Angola . They were temporarily employed for up to five years in GDR companies, and some were also trained. The workers lived in special housing estates. Integration of these workers, who often spoke insufficient German, into GDR society was not the aim and only rarely took place.

Situation in Austria

Based on the signing of the Raab-Olah Agreement on December 28, 1961, a recruitment agreement was concluded with Spain in 1962, but in practice it was of no importance, as the wage level in Austria compared to the wage level in Germany and Switzerland for potential Spanish people Labor force was not very attractive. Other, more successful recruitment agreements followed with Turkey (1964) and Yugoslavia (1966). In the following years, especially between 1969 and 1973, around 265,000 people immigrated to Austria until recruitment was stopped in the early 1970s due to the economic crisis. In 1973 a total of 78.5% of guest workers came from Yugoslavia and 11.8% from Turkey.

For the guest workers and their descendants see also: Turks in Austria # Immigration of guest workers in the 1960s and 1970s and Serbs in Austria .

Situation in Switzerland

Since the middle of the 19th century, certain regions of Switzerland temporarily employed a lot of foreign workers, especially in railway construction. The construction of the many railway tunnels in Switzerland - Gotthard , Lötschberg , also smaller ones like the Rosenberg in St. Gallen - would have been impossible without the many mainly Italian miners and miners . In the period of boom before the beginning of the First World War, there were hardly any local workers available and they could be afforded. With the onset of the global economic crisis, that changed quickly. Local workers also became unemployed, and a way was sought to limit the immigration of foreign workers and their families. The so-called seasonal statute of 1934 regulated the conditions under which foreign workers could be employed at short notice. The fact that the contracts were only concluded for one season at a time was intended to ensure that the workers drove home afterwards. Nevertheless, many workers eventually moved to Switzerland with their families, which in some cases led to major social problems.

Impact history

For the history of effects in Germany see: Recruitment Policy of the Federal Republic of Germany # History of Effects


"Workers were called and people came."

- Max Frisch : Foreign infiltration I (1965)

See also


Web links

Commons : Guest workers in Germany  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Gastarbeiter  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Guest workers in the German economic miracle , Der Spiegel
  2. Turkish guest workers 1964, hopeful and optimistic , Der Spiegel.
  3. a b c Thomas Schiller: Nazi propaganda for work LIT Verlag , Hamburg 1997, ISBN 3-8258-3411-5 , p. 6. (Sources: BA R 41/263 ff .; Dieter Galinski, Wolf Schmidt: Die War years in Germany 1939 to 1945. Hamburg 1985, p. 79.)
  4. An early example of the term in the Nazi propaganda booklet : EUROPA works in Germany: Sauckel mobilizes the power reserves , by Dr. Friedrich Didier, Zentralverlag der NSDAP, Berlin 1943, p. 63, title of the chapter: "Guest workers create for guest workers"
  5. ^ A b Marianne Krüger-Potratz: Intercultural Education. An introduction. Münster u. a. 2005, ISBN 3-8309-1484-9 , p. 191 f.
  6. Harald Ermisch: Protection of minorities in the Basic Law? Münster / Hamburg / London 2000, ISBN 3-8258-4740-3 , p. 3; Ulrich Rosar: Ethnocentrism in Germany. A comparative analysis 1980 to 1996. Wiesbaden 2001, ISBN 3-531-13654-2 , p. 133; Stefan Hradil: The social structure of Germany in international comparison. 2nd Edition. Wiesbaden 2006, ISBN 3-531-14939-3 , p. 56.
  7. ^ Heike Knortz: Diplomatic barter deals. “Guest workers” in West German diplomacy and employment policy 1953–1973. Böhlau, Cologne 2008.
  8. ^ A b Herbert Ulrich: History of the policy on foreigners in Germany. Seasonal workers, forced laborers, guest workers, refugees , Munich 2001, ISBN 3-406-47477-2 , p. 213.
  9. ^ BMAS decree of 23 November 1973 in full .
  10. Hans-Peter Schwarz: The Federal Republic of Germany: a balance sheet after 60 years , Böhlau Verlag Köln Weimar, 2008, ISBN 978-3-412-20237-8 , p. 581.
  11. Ordinance on the Employment of Foreign Nationals, Employment Ordinance 2013 .
  12. On recruitment agreements and integration. In: December 27, 2011, accessed January 15, 2018 .
  13. Recruitment agreement with Turkey - historical background. In: Media Service Point New Austrians. May 7, 2014, accessed January 12, 2018 .
  14. ^ In: Public as a partner. edition suhrkamp 209, quoted in key words. Selected by Uwe Johnson. Suhrkamp Verlag Frankfurt am Main, 1975, p. 189.